Pension shortfalls are not math problems, but "complex challenges requiring thoughtful solutions, politically challenging to implement," consulting firm Public Financial Management Inc. said in a report.

"We tried to take a much broader view than other reports on pensions," John White, the chairman and former chief executive of Philadelphia-based PFM, said in an interview. "It's a societal problem with really broad implications for the economy and for people's lifestyles, and that factored into what we are saying."

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